Joe Gieck: Fond Farewell to a Cavalier Legend
Nov 09, 2005
Joe Gieck was honored during halftime of the Temple game.
Legendary? Well, how does the following excerpt from Joe's bio on the Curry School web page grab you?
“Joe Gieck is director of sports medicine, professor in human services, and professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the University of Virginia. He was curriculum director of the University of Virginia's master's program in athletic training for 11 years and received the National Athletic Trainers Association distinguished educator of the year award in 1986 and college athletic trainer of the year award in 1979. He was inducted into the National Athletic Trainer's Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1993 he received the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Distinguished Service Award for Athletic Training. In recognition of his years of dedicated service the Joe Gieck Professorship in Sports Medicine was created in 1999. He currently serves on the Advisory Board on Physical Therapy for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Governor's Council for Physical Fitness and Sport.”
Last Friday evening, a crowd of several hundred people from all walks of life gathered in Memorial Gymnasium - where Joe had his first office - to pay tribute to someone William Faulkner might have had trouble describing. Mem Gym was all gussied up for the occasion, which featured western-style food. Cowboy boots adorned many feet, and some 'Hoos even attempted to dress like the fashionable Hall of Fame trainer.
When Joe saw this writer, he shook hands, grinned and said, “Nice bolo!” I didn't have the guts to tell him the tie had belonged to my grandfather - a Texan and a UT graduate.
Gieck arrived in Charlottesville 43 years ago.
After Corrigan herded the thirsty steers from the bar to their seats, Craig Littlepage gave a quick overview of some of Joe's accomplishments and Charlottesville Mayor David Brown declared Saturday was to be Joe Gieck Day in the Hook. Then the evening heated up. Dr. Frank McCue, Virginia's legendary orthopedic surgeon and Joe's road playmate, remembered their days together in the early 1960s.
“I quickly realized I was a nerd and this guy was a Gieck,” he quipped. McCue noted that there have only been three athletic trainers in UVa history - Lou Onesty (the longtime track coach who did it part-time), Joe and now his successor, Ethan Saliba.
“I'll tell you one thing,” McCue noted. “Joe's record as a trainer was better than a LOT of the coaches we've had during the last 43 years.” He wondered why nobody was wearing a “win one for the Tripper” button, in reference to Joe's famous incident in a Virginia Tech game some years back. “They still yell like hell at me,” McCue said. “A couple of years ago down there, a Tech guy was yelling so bad I had to go over behind the bench and tell him I was NOT Joe Gieck!”
Barry Parkhill strode to the podium and asked everyone to stand. Expecting a toast, we grabbed our glasses. But instead “BP” asked that we bend over, grab our ankles and yell “SUCK IT UP!”, Joe's admonishment to many a whining athlete/patient through the years.
Gieck's advice to countless Cavaliers: "Suck it up!"
On a serious note, Parkhill recalled the best advice Joe ever gave him. “Joe told me to give a pretty lady named Pat a call many years ago. He thought she'd like to go out.” Parkhill followed the advice and met his wife.
Later, Corrigan introduced a former football transfer from UCLA who came east when his dad got a job in Washington. Today, according to U.S. Senator George Allen, the Hook is home and Virginia Athletics is his second family. He fondly recalled deer hunting and keg parties out at Joe's farm “back in the days before the drinking age changed, when you could go out and have fun and not be so hung up about things. At UVa, we tend to get a bit stuffy sometimes, and we really need Joe's common sense and wisdom.”
Senator Allen remembered the Education Summit that was held in Charlottesville during the first Bush presidency. He garnered a VIP pass for Joe to the event. When Joe saw then New York Mayor Mario Cuomo, he sneered, “Look how greasy he is. He looks just like an ACC referee!” Dick Paparo, no doubt.
Allen also recalled some Gieck advice he received when he first went to Washington: “Don't ever change, he told me.” Allen then asked Joe to never change, never stop abusing folks when they need it, never stop telling jokes, and never stop giving sound advice. He likened Joe to another Oklahoma native of note, Will Rogers - an apt description indeed!
The loudest ovation of the evening was not for Joe, but for his beloved wife, friend and partner, “Miss Sally”, who made brief but moving remarks about her husband's private roles as husband, father, friend and philanthropist. Sally's comparison to Joe as Clint Eastwood look-alike may have been a slight exaggeration - Joe's real, the other guy's an actor.
Joe's remarks were true to his Will Rogers roots. He thanked the crowd and made some erudite words about the unbelievable progress that has been made in Virginia Athletics since he drove into town in his Ford. “When I interviewed here with Thomas Jefferson,” he quipped, “he talked about uncompromised excellence, and now we are closer to it than we have ever been.”
He spoke of his tripping transgression at Virginia Tech, and then left us with his final word on officials - “football guys can take a joke, the basketball guys have permanent wedgies!” (Note: having been in close hearing distance of Joe when he sat on the men's basketball bench years ago, I was tempted to ask why they had never teed him up for telling them to “get the #$%^ skin out of your eyes” along with other endearments, but it was his night.). In closing, he thanked everyone, especially Miss Sally, and offered one final tidbit - “never build a gate that your wife can't open.”
Uncompromised excellence? That's Joe Gieck's legacy.
Frank Quayle has known Joe for a long time and seen his many sides. In a separate conversation, Frank said, “My thoughts on Joe Gieck! Looking back, I believe Joe was still in his 20s when I was playing football. Perhaps it was because of there not being much age difference between us and Joe, he played the role of a hardass but in a way that almost always left you with a smile. Not that there were not times we were shaking our heads while we were smiling. The phrase we always associated with Joe and still do is 'suck it up'. That was his response to just about every ailment you would see him about, from the sniffles to a busted knee. At the end of each season Joe would have an awards ceremony that would finish with the much-awaited 'gold brick' award. This was presented to the football team member who had spent the most time that season in the training room. The winner's name was placed on the training room wall (printed on a yellow brick) along with the past recipients. In recent years I have seen another part of Joe. He and Sally go to extraordinary ends to give back to the community and to those less fortunate. This is all done behind the scenes. Thus while I have always thought very highly of Joe, it is this aspect of both Joe and Sally that makes me recognize how truly special they both are.”
Joe plans to spend his retirement staying busy with family, the farm, church work and the local community foundation. He is an educated, practicing philanthropist. And there is one other piece of the Legend of Joe Gieck that we all hope will continue. Terry Holland could not attend on Friday, but he sent a brief note - “Joe and Sally have been such an integral part of UVa Athletics that it is hard to imagine where UVa Athletics would be without their willingness to go the extra mile. Joe has been a father figure to generations of UVa athletes and helped them in good times and tough times both while they were in school and afterwards. And the Gieck athletic department Christmas parties are legendary.”
Joe, we know the Athletics Department piece is gone - but will you still have the Christmas party?
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